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Maxïmo Park

One of the more enduring bands from the post-punk revival of the early to mid-2000s, Maxïmo Park craft smart, sharply catchy guitar pop songs. Like their friends and neighbors Field Music and the Futureheads, they took inspiration from legends like the Jam, XTC, Wire, and the Smiths. Unlike many of their peers, frontman Paul Smith's heartfelt vocals and lyrics added an emotional pull to their music, especially on their 2005 Mercury Prize-nominated debut, A Certain Trigger, and 2007's Our Earthly Pleasures. Maxïmo Park were also unafraid to share their overtly political viewpoint, even when it was unfashionable, as on 2012's The National Health and 2017's Too Much Information. However, they never lost touch with the deep feelings in their music, and 2021's Nature Always Wins proved they were just as endearingly thoughtful and earnest as they were when they started. Guitarist Duncan Lloyd, bassist Archis Tiku, keyboardist Lukas Wooller, and drummer Tom English formed Maxïmo Park in Newcastle upon Tyne as a largely instrumental avant-rock group in 2000 and played a few shows with this lineup. By 2003, however, the band wanted a full-time singer. They found one in Paul Smith, who had previously played with the group Me and the Twins and was recommended as the band's new singer by English's girlfriend at the time, who heard him singing Stevie Wonder's "Superstitious" at a karaoke night. With a friend's financial help, Maxïmo Park self-recorded and released their debut single, "Graffiti/Going Missing," in early 2004. A few months later, their next release, The Coast Is Always Changing/The Night I Lost My Head, caught the ears of Warp Records. Despite being a mostly electronic label, Warp signed Maxïmo Park and released their next single, "Apply Some Pressure." Arriving early in 2005, the song was a Top 20 hit in the U.K. That February, the label released the Apply Some Pressure EP, which featured tracks from the band's previous singles, in the U.S. Working with producer Paul Epworth, Maxïmo Park finished recording their debut album and toured the U.K., Japan, and the U.S. Released in May 2005, A Certain Trigger was a commercial and critical success. It reached number 15 on the U.K. Albums Chart, notched three Top 20 U.K. singles, and earned a nomination for that year's Mercury Prize. As the band toured the world in support of the album, the B-sides collection Missing Songs appeared in 2006. Late that year, Maxïmo Park teamed with producer Gil Norton on their next album. Recorded at London's Rak Studios, Our Earthly Pleasures arrived in April 2007. Boasting a more polished sound than its predecessor, the set hit number two on the U.K. Albums Chart and the single "Our Velocity" made the Top Ten. For May 2009's Quicken the Heart, the band ventured to Los Angeles to record with producer Nick Launay. A slightly rawer yet still danceable set of songs, it was another Top Ten hit in the U.K. In 2010, Maxïmo Park took a break from their near-constant recording and touring, during which time Smith made the solo album Margins. The band's hiatus continued until 2012, when they resurfaced with that June's The National Health, a harder-hitting, politicized effort produced by Norton. The group's first record for V2, it peaked at number 13 on the U.K. Albums Chart. That September, Tiku stepped away from touring with Maxïmo Park, and Hot Club de Paris' Paul Rafferty joined as their live bassist. To make 2014's more intimate, electronic-driven Too Much Information, the band recruited the Invisible's Dave Okumu and Field Music's David and Peter Brewis as collaborators. Released on Maxïmo Park's own Daylighting imprint, the album reached number seven in the U.K. After Smith worked with the Brewis brothers on a pair of solo albums (2014's Frozen by Sight and the following year's Contradictions), Maxïmo Park returned in April 2017 with Risk to Exist, an album that reflected the turbulent times in which it was made. Recorded at Wilco's Loft studio in Chicago, it featured backing vocals from Low's Mimi Parker as well as Rafferty on bass (Tiku left the band prior to making the album). Ahead of the record's release, its title track was issued as a single that benefitted the refugee charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS). Risk to Exist peaked at number 11 on the U.K. Albums Chart. Smith released the solo album Diagrams in 2018, and Wooller departed Maxïmo Park in 2019, with keyboardist Jemma Freese joining the band's touring lineup in time for the live release As Long as We Keep Moving. For their first album as a trio, the group took a more personal approach to songwriting. Recorded with Grammy-winning producer Ben Allen, Nature Always Wins appeared in February 2021.
© Heather Phares /TiVo
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